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KSRE Tuesday Letter

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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

October 18, 2022

Managing Change

Submitted by Carol Ann Crouch

I have to admit, I was a bit surprised -- and really honored -- when Dr. Hadley asked me to be a guest feature writer for the Tuesday Letter. So here goes...

First an introduction: I am the district director of the West Plains Extension District. Our district was formed July 1, 2020 and is comprised of Finney and Scott Counties in western Kansas. We serve about 35,000 residents in our district, comprised of all ages, genders and cultures.

It was a struggle getting this district off the ground as we began the process in the spring of 2020. When COVID-19 hit and many of the state offices closed, it slowed our process down, but I had a great team of people who were willing to work with me on making decisions and we were able to move forward and make it happen.

I have been asked if being in a district is worth the effort or if it is a good thing. The answer is always “absolutely!"

I know that when there are changes, there are struggles, but for us in the West Plains District, our struggles have been minimal and we in extension are always up for a good challenge.

One advantage of being in a district is the ability to combine resources including personnel, financial, supplies, equipment and more. By combining our resources, we had the funds to attract and hire great employees who can specialize in areas that are most needed in our communities.

Our district went from two agents on staff, to five agents to support our efforts. By combining our resources, we have been able to grow our extension efforts through more contacts and programming with these new agents.

Have there been a few hiccups on our new adventure? Of course, but overall, it’s been the best move for us to watch K-State Research and Extension grow in our communities.

Progressive, forward-thinking extension board members are key to a successful program. When board members embrace new ideas and provide the resources for agents to do what they were hired to do, there is very little to stop the program from moving forward.

It also helps when agents love what they do. Forming a team that will work together and not be territorial or competitive in their positions is so important. Mentoring new agents and not micro-managing them is essential in a successful district. We are fortunate to have these type of board members and agents in the West Plains Extension District.

Each county or district in extension is unique, just like the agents who work in them. All extension agents in the 105 Kansas counties (many of them in districts) are here to serve the people of Kansas. This network is as strong as any in our state and when we collaborate with other universities, state agencies and local working partners, it’s the best program in Kansas.

Would I recommend other counties in Kansas to district? Yes, but only for the right reasons. It’s more about combining efforts and resources to bring the best team together to offer what K-State Research and Extension has.

Has everything been easy and seamless? Nope, but that is what makes us grow stronger as a program.